Remembering 9/11

Times Square, busy as ever

Note: My diary entry that outlines the events of the week of September 11, 2001, is in a box in my parents’ attic on the other side of the U.S., so while the gist of what I remember is accurate, the actual order and execution of events may not be.

Ten years ago, I woke up, ready to work on some short stories on my quest to get paid for my literary pursuits, when my mom called me downstairs.  As I headed down to where the TV was, she told me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center, and while I saw the repeated replays of the event (this would be the second plane to hit the towers), she had seen it live.

She had to head off to work, leaving me to watch as the first tower fell.  My dad called a few times, the last time to say that they were shutting the courts and he would be home soon.  In the interim, a plane hit the Pentagon, United Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, and the second tower fell.

What I remember the most about that week was the fear: fear caused by the unknown.  Living where planes routinely flew overhead, it was eerie to hear the sky silent.  The first few days that planes started to fly again, we looked up every time we heard one flying overhead.

I had been planning on visiting some of my friends later in September, in Virginia, and while the events on 9/11 didn’t change that, I flew out only ten days after the attacks.  Had I booked an earlier flight, it’s possible that it would have been canceled. On the way back to Connecticut, I saw, outside the wing of the airplane, the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.  Only years later, when I flew from Tokyo to Nagasaki, did I see a similarly beautiful sight: of Mt. Fuji, Tokyo Bay, boats, and clouds at various heights and distances from the plane.

I had graduated from college earlier that year, and so had decided to save all of my email messages from graduation on (the last email I saved is from the middle of February the following year).  Reading through those emails now, particularly the ones right before and right after the attacks, are fascinating in how most of them aren’t about the towers falling, or the Pentagon smoldering, but the logistics of putting together my trip.  In early September, i”m still ironing out details of my trip, while the ones immediately after September 11 are making sure everyone is okay and to assure them that I’m still coming.  Only directly, on September 12th, do I address the attacks and my feelings about them.  The same with my friends, with one friend mentioning how she saw smoke pouring out of the Pentagon on her way to work the following morning (September 12), how she saw people slowly driving by, and how she could smell the smoke through her car vents.  After September 12th, I mention checking airlines, buses, and metro lines to make sure they are still running, but I do not directly comment on the attacks.

For a couple days after the Twin Towers fell, I was paralyzed creatively, only wishing to watch Tom Brokaw every night as more and more information became available.  Then, on September 15th, I wrote a poem.  It would be on September 19th, however — two days before I left for Dulles International Airport — before I wrote any creative work dealing with the attacks.

The works in question were poems.  The second one seems trite now in some of its construction, but the first one — even without any tweaking — is still one of my stronger poems.  That Christmas, I framed a copy of it and sent it to my grandmother to help her deal with some difficult issues.  When she died a year later, it adorned the room where her wake was held.  It now sits in my parents’ room.

I have shared this poem before. I’m no longer happy with that version of the poem, however, so I thought I would share the original with you:

Time is a Jealous Mistress

Time is a jealous mistress
That always gets its way,
Whether it be tomorrow,
Or whether it be today.
It doesn’t give without receiving,
And it receives far more than it gives,
Yet as it passes, wounds will heal,
And Life will continue to live.

I used to get emails from national honor societies right after I graduated.  They always came with quotes.  I find it interesting that, right after the September 11th poems, this is the quote I wrote down from those emails:

“You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom.  You can only be free if I am free.” -Clarence Darrow, lawyer (1857-1938)

The real tragedy of September 11th will be if our initial response to those attacks and other terrorist threats — increased spying on our citizens, black sites, torture, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (if that name doesn’t make you shudder, you need to read more Orwell than I have), security theater at airports, increased suspicion of Muslims and “outsiders” — becomes the lasting legacy of that day.  If we allow fear to overthrow reason and common sense, and our rights and the rights of others along with them, then we have not protected other men’s freedom, and have lost our own.

Notes from the Diary of a Literary Rebel, Part 2

More posts from my first blog. The first one perfectly captures my frustration at losing a post I was working on, while the second one is a slightly modified version of what I wanted to post in the first place (kind of a precursor to my famous quotes post). Except for a corrected spelling error, the posts have not been altered. 🙂

More posts from my first blog.  The first one perfectly captures my frustration at losing a post I was working on, while the second one is a slightly modified version of what I wanted to post in the first place (kind of a precursor to my famous quotes post).  Except for a corrected spelling error, the posts have not been altered. 🙂

April 3, 2008 – Thursday

Current mood:  pissed off

Thank you myspace for allowing me to log out of another window, thereby disabling my means of posting a blog. For, when I hit the preview and post button, it said I had to be logged in to do that, but when I logged in, no blog. So, &%%$’$%&%” you, myspace!!!! And your emoticons don’t work, either.

April 4, 2008 – Friday

Current mood:  contemplative

Okay, so this is a slightly altered version of what I was going to post before.  This is a more random assortment of thoughts I have written down since May of 2006 than my first attempt was.  I can give you exact dates of composition, but I’d prefer to just write them here in chronological order.  If tons of people clamor for the inclusion of dates, then I’ll include them later.

Some of the earlier ones dealing with relationships were heavily influenced by a book I was reading at the time, called Snow in Summer.  It was written by a Buddhist monk named Sayadaw U. Jotika and translated into English.  I’d like to include a later blog of his quotes, which I wrote down, as he says many wise things in that book.  But, for now, here are my originals.  Enjoy!

Confidence comes from knowing what you want out of life and knowing how to get it.

We all want to be loved and we all want to be understood, but we must learn to love ourselves and understand ourselves.  Only then will others do the same, except family, which loves unconditionally.

When eyes meet and you feel that spark, that burst of energy inside, it’s the result of two souls communicating across the centuries.

In order to understand people, you must look at their actions through their eyes, not your own.

Fiction is the reality we want to have.

Man should not try to end suffering, which is impossible, but instead learn to live with it.  Our times want no suffering, and so are ill-prepared to deal with it in its inevitability.

To be a foreigner is to be alone always.*

Tradition based on ignorance should have no future.

I think men are too cynical about love, and women too fantastical.  Both should be avoided.

We are the keepers of our own prisons.

Love is sexless.

The problem with America is that too many people say “I, me”; the problem with Japan is not enough people say “I, me.”

People become less fun and more interesting as they age.

Feel free to comment.  I love a good philosophical debate!

*[Author’s Note: To be a foreigner is to always be alone sounds better, but that wasn’t what I wrote in the original post.  Still, that’s the only quote I would change.]

A New Beginning?

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

I kept repeating that quote after I came home tonight from work.  No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.  No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.  No one can make you feel inferior….no one….

I quit my job today.  Usually, when one leaves a job, it is customary to give the company two weeks notice (and in Japan, a whole month).  I have followed this courtesy at all of my jobs…those that allowed me to stay on long enough to do so, that is.

All but this one.

I had taken next week off for U.S. Census training, and since the schedules are done one week previous, I figured now was the best time to quit, since they had already scheduled me out for next week.  I also thought that I had read in the company handbook that during the first ninety days, an employee could quit at any time and for any reason, a power usually reserved for the employer in regards to the employee.  So I quit, effective today.  Unfortunately, I was told that I read that part wrong, and that the penalty is that this company may never hire me back.

I had two main reasons for quitting immediately.  One was that I didn’t want to announce my departure, and then have to put up with two weeks of people asking why, of looking at the disappointment in people’s faces, of fumbling for an answer that makes my decision clear without placing blame for my departure on any one person.  In other words, I wanted to leave quietly, without people knowing that I was leaving until right before I was gone.  Well, I bungled that, as this immediate departure will probably cause more problems than giving my two week notice would have.  Oh well.  It can’t be undone.

The second reason was that the job sucked.  Physically, mentally, emotionally, I might have been able to squeeze out another week (I had next week off, so I only needed one more), but it was a struggle just to make it to the weekend.  I stayed an hour over my scheduled end time every night this week, usually for an hour or so (last night, I only stayed 30 minutes over).  Tonight was the only night that I put everything out on the floor (I worked in a bakery department), and I stayed 1 hour 15 minutes over!

Then there was the training.  Originally, I was trained to be a barista.  Then the construction of the coffee shop was delayed.  I was moved over to the bakery without having been certified for the barista position.  I was officially trained a total of sixteen hours in the bakery (they kept saying I was a trainee, but every night that I worked at the bakery, except one, I was alone for all but an hour or half hour at the beginning of my shift, and the one in which I was only alone for the last hour was worse, because the person I worked with baked so much that I couldn’t put all of it out on the shelves in the hour that remained).  In fact, though I was trained for the morning shift, the first time I was put in the bakery by myself was for a night shift, and there was no overlap with the person who worked the earlier shift.

Finally, the job itself just wasn’t for me.  I should have said that when questioned by the manager on duty as to why I wanted to leave immediately (so much for leaving unnoticed, huh?).  I am not a fast worker, except as a cashier.  I prefer jobs that aren’t so hectic.  This job was more or less a shot in the dark, and it got me to the point where I could take the census job, without a gap in pay, but it wasn’t a job that one would associate with me.  For people who can do that kind of job, good for them.  They probably had proper training.

Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
-Henry Ford

This quote is on my desk, though I had to search the Internet to see who said it.  I’ve been looking at this quote throughout most of the day.  If quitting is a type of failure, then indeed, it is giving me an opportunity to begin again.

Did I make the right decision?  I don’t know.  I should be able to find something within the four weeks that I am working the census job, and hopefully something that will actually cover my expenses, rather than just put a dent in them, as my recent job did ($8.65 an hour).  The only reason to hang onto that job for a little longer was its benefits, but why join a union, with union dues, if I’m only going to work at there for a few months at most?

Years from now, I’m hoping that I’ll look back at this decision as similar to Jack London’s decision to continue writing stories over working a steady job at the post office, and not as a step that leads to my having to leave Seattle due to lack of funds and lack of work (though that’s being a bit dramatic).  Due to my quick exit, I know that the company I worked for won’t hire me again.  At least my checks are still being sent to my barista training store as opposed to the one in which I worked at the bakery, and at least I shop at a different grocery store than the one that I worked at.  But I shouldn’t be this depressed less than two days before my birthday.  I should remember the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, and realize that today I fulfilled one of my favorite quotes:

Always do what you are afraid to do.   -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Maybe this is a turning point in my fortunes.  As Aaron Eckhart said in The Dark Knight, “The night is darkest just before the dawn.”

Here’s to the dawn.

Author’s Note: This post was written on Friday night and posted just after midnight on Saturday.  So when I write “today,” I’m writing about Friday.